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Use of Hessian cloth in Cricket Pitch  preparation                         



The use of hessian or bidum as an aid in the maintenance and preparation of cricket pitches deserves special mention. In the warm, dry, and often windy conditions experienced in the South African summers, hessian or bidum is an essential item in the grounds man's kit.
 (i) During pitch preparation : Where it is necessary for the roller to be used to prepare, for play, a pitch which is wetter than optimum, there is a danger of the roller picking up the bulli and so spoiling the pitch surface. Such damage can be avoided by laying a hessian cover over the pitch and rolling first with a light roller. In so doing, excess moisture is absorbed by the hessian and the pitch is protected. Light rolling for a short period assists in bringing the pitch surface to a suitable state for a heavy roller to be used. Hessian can, with advantage, also be used when the first rollings are given with a heavy roller. If the pitch is very wet, and unfit for rolling, hessian or bidum can be used to mop up excess moisture and any pools of water. Special importance is attached to the use of hessian or bidum in the preparation of practice nets, where the practice pitches have to be prepared three or four times a week with copious watering after each  period of use.  


(ii) To preserve moisture in the pitch It is considered an advantage that at the start of play the prepared pitch should contain some moisture rather than be too dry. In our climate, and specially on hot, windy days, bulli dries out very rapidly. The drying process can be retarded by ensuring that the work of the heavy roller is stopped just before the pitch is too dry, that is, before the colour of  the bulli changes from black to gray. If the rolled pitch is then covered with hessian, the final stages of drying out will be retarded so that the pitch is in prime condition at the start of play. 
 (iii) In pitch maintenance: Apart from the fact that the turf cover on cricket pitches is expected to survive the harsh treatment of constant close cutting with a mower, and  the bruising effects of rolling, the natural ability of the grass to grow  is still further hindered by the long periods that the pitch is dried out. Pitch soil, being black in colour, absorbs heat and becomes so hot that  new growth of grass tends to be scorched. In addition, there is the pounding effect of the cricket ball and the effect of sharp studs now in common use on boots. It is indeed remarkable that the grass cover of a  turf pitch can possibly survive such rough treatment, and it is not surprising that, from time to time, bare patches tend to develop, apart from those areas which are torn up by footmarks of the players. 
  It is in the treatment of worn areas that the grounds man can look to hessian or bidum to help.  By laying hessian or bidum over the worn areas of a pitch, soil moisture, so vital to allow for the recovery of the grass, can be maintained without any danger of stress arising from the soil becoming too dry. Secondly, the  pitch soil is kept cool and protected from the wind and hot sun, thus giving optimum conditions for the grass to survive.  
  Sufficient light for growth gets through the hessian. Thus, with a good  soil moisture level, cool temeperatures, protection from wind and very hot sun, and sufficient light, there is set up an environment for growth which  is of the utmost value in preserving the turf cover of the pitch. 
 The use of hessian or bidum for these purposes has been tested many times, and almost invariably with remarkably successful results. Even in cases  where the grass seems to have been permanently destroyed, the hessian treatment has allowed for renewal of root growth and the re-appearance of  the grass cover

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